Spring Notes: Win or “Win Now” For the Orioles?
As position players report and spring training gets underway in earnest, any outlook for the 2011 Orioles should include “finishing at or better than .500” as a reasonable goal. That’s not an “If things break our way…” scenario as it has been in the recent past. This year it’s pretty much an expectation. The bar has been raised.
That’s a by-product of both a solid offseason and the fact that it came on the heels of hiring Buck Showalter, whose 1/3 season of leadership evinced impressive results. Small sample size though it is, there’s been a lot of progress since last July.
With that in mind, let’s consider a crazy question: are the Orioles built to “win now”?
Such designation is typically given to teams making a large bet on a single season. Teams seeking to move from “good” to “great.” That hardly describes the Orioles. And yet, I wonder.
There’s something about the signings of Vlad Guerrero and, to a lesser extent, Derrek Lee that suggests “win now.” After all, those guys are only here for one of two reasons: win this year or get traded for prospects. Neither of them figures into any kind of long-term plan.
MacPhail most likely treats every season as only what it is and looks to make moves to make the team successful. It’s worth noting, though, that this is the last year of his contract. Has he been quietly angling for something big? Might he think, on some level, that there’s a legitimate chance of this year’s team making a run?
Nobody knows for sure, save for Warehouse insiders and confidantes. But knowing only what I know, I’m intrigued.
Recall, for a moment, 2005. That was a damn fine Orioles team in the first half. A first-place team, in fact. They looked like they might make a serious run. Who knows what might have happened if the Rafael Palmeiro steroid scandal hadn’t derailed them.
This year’s team, on paper, is even better.
I’m not predicting a playoff run and I’m not predicting a repeat of the first half of 2005. But there is a potential here for something to take shape. Potential and two bucks buys whatever it buys, which isn’t much. Can’t ignore that. Still…
Do the folks who assembled this team know something we don’t? Could the Orioles be better than we expect, before we expect it?